I suppose you’re all wondering how the journey debacle turned out aren’t you??
I’m sorry that my last post cut off halfway through a sentence. That was partly due to fatigue on my part and dodgy wi-fi connection in another part. Hopefully I will remember the age-old advice when using computers of SAVE YOUR WORK every now and again and fingers crossed I won’t repeat that mistake again.
So…where were we? Oh yes, we were having a time crisis because there was a deadline of 8pm to sign in at the site, and according to the SatNav we would land there at 7.54pm if everything went smoothly.
I had been driving for a spell up to this point and Kevin took over again at that rest-stop. It was complete horror on his face that as he entered the slip road to rejoin the motorway he shouted “WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME THE PETROL WAS IN THE RED??!!!!!!”.
Oops, my bad.
He did everything he could to conserve petrol – slow acceleration, gentle braking, optimising the speed, turning off the AC etc – but that needle crept further and further towards empty and we were sweating a bit looking for the next service sign. When we did see the sign it was a huge relief, although the following 12 miles were the most nerve wracking ever. Eventually (after a couple of coughs from the engine) we turned off the motorway and were horrified to see that the service station wasn’t just to the side as normal services are, but way down the road after battling with three roundabouts as well. The needle had stuck to the bottom of the guage, the engine was coughing and spluttering and we still had about 100 yards to go when the inevitable happened. We could actually SEE the petrol pumps but the engine just died on us, in the middle of the road. There were HGV’s and wagons and all sorts of vans whizzing past us and we had no choice but to get out and push.
Let me remind you – this was three of us (Kevin, me and my 14 year old son Ethan) pushing a dead car which was towing a fully loaded caravan in the middle of the motorway services for about 60 yards or so. Never before in all my days have I been so mortified/embarrassed/scared witless/energised (delete as appropriate). I felt to blame because I hadn’t noticed that the petrol guage was showing so low when we first stopped, but I felt fully justified in blaming Kevin for not noticing when he took over. So we’re equal in the blame stakes but that didn’t help the fact that we were now over the expected time of arrival at the campsite.
We filled up and were back on the road post-haste and there was some pretty nifty driving to go along with the “please get us there in one piece and please don’t let us get lost as we usually do” type prayers going on as well, and we arrived with a couple of minutes to spare.
It was hairy!!
Since then we’ve been doing a bit of relaxing (Saturday was spent here on site and exploring the local area, including watching the floating gin palaces on the Thames) and visiting family. We took my Gran out to Windsor on Sunday, which was a lovely time together. She is very frail now and can’t walk anywhere more than from her chair to the bathroom etc, so we took her in her wheelchair which she loved. She really appreciated the time out of her house and she said that she enjoyed the journey as much as the walk/ride round Windsor.
We then visited my Uncle David’s wife Alison and their two daughters Laura and Juliette who were busy putting up a tent in the garden when we arrived. We had a lovely natter and Kevin and my Dad helped the girls finish putting the tent up and I think the idea was that they might like to sleep out in it one night. Not sure if that’s happened yet!!
Emma arrived during our trip to Windsor with her boyfriend Sam, and we almost had a repeat of Friday night as we realised the time and had to dash off back to the site to get them booked in before 8pm and to get their tent up. We made it with about 15 minutes to spare this time – luxury!
We have been thinking about going to visit London for quite some time now, and we decided that seeing as though we are so close (well, closer than Manchester anyway) we would make the effort to travel in and “do the sights” as they say. We went both yesterday and today, and the journey was as much a part of the day as the day itself was. We drove from the campsite in Hurley to West Ruislip where we got the tube train. The drive took about half an hour and then the tube was another hour or so to get to the Tower station, which is where we’d planned on visiting yesterday. We got off sooner than that today because we had planned on doing a little foot tour when we arrived, so we got off at Chancery Lane.
We spent most of our time yesterday exploring the Tower of London which was very interesting and well worth a visit. We didn’t get to see the Crown Jewels because the queue was at least an hour long to go in, which none of us fancied in the baking heat, so we gave that a miss. We saw pretty much everything else though including the spot where the scaffold was built to behead those unfortunate enough to come to the wrathful attention of a miffed monarch in the annals of history.
The journey home was an….adventure….gulp. We had totally mistimed our tube journey and tried to get on during the rush hour, and unfortunately for us (and the several million other tube users at that time) there had been a cloud burst and everyone was soaked wet through which caused a human miasma of sweaty steam to mill its way through all the tunnels and on the trains. We were squashed in like sardines in a tin and I found it hilarious to see that everything I’d heard about people taking daft risks to get on the train was actually true. There was one chap who took a run up and a flying leap to get onto our carriage where there was really no room to do so and if it wasn’t for the fact that he was carrying a large (and very solid) briefcase that he used as a weapon to carve himself a hole, then he wouldn’t have been able to get on and instead would have been splattered against the side of the train.
Today we spent a fair bit of time walking about and isn’t it amazing what you can find when you’re on foot? We were looking at the inns of court from the road and realised there was a small doorway open which was too tantalising to ignore, so we went through it. There was a sign up saying that the public were permitted to enter at the discretion of Lord Something or Other of Somewhere and that we had to abide by the rules etc, which, being the law abiding citizens that we are we thought was reasonable.
I’m so glad we sneaked in through that side gate though – boy oh boy it was like another world in there! If you’ve ever been to Oxford or Cambridge and have seen the way the colleges are set up you’ll be familiar with the layout here. There are several (numerous) buildings arranged round the grounds, which are all contained within a walled enclosure. There is usually a porters lodge (we were round the back so didn’t see the porter till we went out the other side) and there are usually chapels or small churches too. As we made our way along we could hear organ music so we went to investigate and found ourselves in the Lincoln’s Inn Chapel listening to the most stunning playing I have ever heard in real life. The chapel itself was breathtaking, but the music was sublime. We later realised that the organist was having a lesson from a music tutor and what we heard wasn’t the finished product. Wow. I certainly would like to hear that played for real if that was only a practice.
We walked along Fleet Street and up Ludgate Hill to St Paul’s Cathedral after that, and there we got on the open top bus tour that was to make up most of the rest of our day. We saw pretty much all the major sights from the top of the bus and we hopped off at one point to visit Harrods. I treated myself to some teabags and some chocolate and with a bit of forward purchasing, treated the family to a couple of new decorations to hang on our Christmas tree. It was certainly weird to be hearing Jingle Bells in the middle of summer!
After we’d finished the tour we walked a bit further and then got the tube back home again. We deliberately chose to avoid the rush hour this time as the sardine experience left one or two of our party a little bit nervous about doing it again.
Last night, we had a lovely meal at the local pub, The Rising Sun here in Hurley. The food was beautiful and the landlord certainly knows how to keep a good ale and a good cellar. Tonight we treated ourselves to fish and chips from a chippy on the way home. Both meals were the perfect ends to the most perfect of tourist days in our capital city.
And so to tomorrow. We have got a relaxation day planned tomorrow but I can foresee that we’ll be doing a bit of walking along the Thames with maybe even a swim in there too if the weather is warm enough. I’ll let you know about that if it happens!!
I will post the pictures from the past few days when I get back home because the internet connection isn’t strong enough for long enough to support uploading them so I will wait to get home to do that.
Part three another day!